The NCAA season has ended and a champion has been crowned as the Stanford Cardinal wrote themselves into the history books as just the second team in NCAA Division 1 Men’s Soccer to take the crown in three consecutive seasons. Stanford topped previously unbeaten Indiana University to claim the 2017 College Cup last Sunday at Talen Energy Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Playing a large part in the success of the Cardinal over the last three seasons was Real Salt Lake Academy graduate Corey Baird who just capped his senior year by earning his third national championship ring in four years. Baird, a native of Escondido, California, totaled 77 matches with 69 starts, scoring 16 goals and adding 28 assists in his college career. The Science, Technology & Society major’s impressive numbers with the Cardinal helped lead to three consecutive national championships beginning with the program’s first-ever title during Baird’s sophomore year in 2015 to the program’s second in 2016, and third in 2017.
“This year was incredibly special, maybe even more so than the last two years,” Baird said. “The group of seniors this year won three national championships together. This year was my favorite at Stanford.”
Making his way through the RSL Academy ranks to graduate in 2014 when the Academy was based in Casa Grande, Arizona, Baird was able to solidify himself among the top players to graduate from the Academy and move on to playing an integral role in arguably the greatest dynasty in college soccer history.
Memories of the Academy before his successes at the collegiate level loom as Baird reflected on the people at RSL and the road that was paved that helped him achieve success at Stanford.
“The staff the Academy provides are incredible and the facilities made it even better and I owe a lot to them,” Baird reflected. “With guys like Freddy [Juarez] and now Martín [Vasquez], leading the players who are so passionate, it created the perfect environment for soccer.”
Now with the advent of the new Zions Bank Real Academy in Herriman, the club looks to produce the next group of Academy stars to follow in the footsteps of Baird and beyond. With the Academy not only giving the players a chance to play the game at a high level, it allows the players to learn about life outside of the beautiful game.
“It’s not just about soccer and it still isn’t,” Baird said of his time in the Academy. “During your time in the Academy you learn to do things on your own without the coaches or your parents doing it for you. It teaches you a lot about being not only a soccer player, but a person."